News / Africa

Abortion Weighs Heavily in Reproductive Rights Debate

Pregnant women watch television as they wait to give birth in the pre-natal ward at Princess Christian Maternity Hospital in Freetown, Sierra Leone (September 2010 file photo).
Pregnant women watch television as they wait to give birth in the pre-natal ward at Princess Christian Maternity Hospital in Freetown, Sierra Leone (September 2010 file photo).
Joe DeCapua

It’s estimated there are more than 45 million abortions worldwide every year. Reproductive rights advocates say more than half are unsafe, causing many injuries and deaths among young women. They say protecting adolescent women should be part of the development agenda. The issue was discussed at an event at a Washington think tank.

Many unintended, many unsafe

Leila Hessini is director of community mobilization at Ipas, an NGO working to end preventable deaths and injuries from unsafe abortions. She spoke at a recent event at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC.

“Every year, there are 87 million unintended pregnancies. So this is 41 percent of all pregnancies. And this is really a figure that we need to unpack and understand because so much contributes to that. It’s about unmet need for contraception. It’s about sexual violence. It’s about contraception being unaffordable. So there are a lot of reasons that go into this,” she said.

Hessini said 33 million of the unintended pregnancies are among women using contraceptives. She says that means either a failure of the contraceptive itself or in the way in which it’s used.

“Every year there are 46 million abortions. Half of these, 21.6 million, are unsafe. The vast majority of these unsafe abortions are in the Global South. They’re in developing countries. And 30 to 60 percent of adolescent pregnancies end in abortion,” she said.

In sub-Saharan African countries, a high percentage of deaths from unsafe abortions are among adolescent women.

Abortions take place in countries where laws range from allowing easy access to no access at all.

Hessini said, “Forty percent of the world’s women live in countries where abortions are available, what we say, on request. Even though there’s always, as we know, different limitations and restrictions to abortion. Another 26 (percent) live in countries where abortion is only available to save a woman’s life or is prohibited altogether. And those you who follow the abortion debates know that abortions are totally prohibited in certain countries like Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chile, Dominican Republic, Malta and the Vatican City.”

Protection of women needed

Jennifer Redner, a consultant for the International Women’s Health Coalition, said too often basic rights are not protected.

“In too many places, the fundamental right of every woman and girl to control her body simply isn’t recognized. For a girl, control over her body and her sexual life requires more than access to health services. Her most basic human rights – freedom from violence, discrimination and coercion – must be protected both in their own right and to enable her access to services,” she said.

Redner said solutions to the problems are not new. They just haven’t been fully implemented.

“Multi-sectoral programming that works with adolescent girls and their communities to address the multiple barriers that girls face accessing health services, attending school, preventing early marriage, preventing violence and building the economic assets of girls will contribute to our collective goals of ensuring that girls can safely transition to adulthood and can be economically productive members of their community,” she said.

Fiercely debated

Abortion, whether legal or illegal, safe or unsafe, remains a controversial, hotly debated and fought-over issue.

Taryn Hodgson is the international coordinator of the Christian Action Network based in Cape Town, South Africa.

She said, “Firstly, abortion is never safe, especially not for the baby, who is killed in the process. So whether it’s legal or illegal abortion is never safe for the baby. It’s also never safe for the woman. Statistics from the Elliott Institute, who’ve done peer reviewed research into post abortion issues, have found that at least over 60 percent of women are coerced into having abortions.”

She said that coercion comes from parents, husbands or boyfriends. Hodgson says consequences of having an abortion include depression, nightmares and grief. She added legal abortions do not lower maternal death rates.

“Maternal deaths can be prevented with adequate nutrition, basic health care and good obstetric care throughout the pregnancy at delivery and post-partum,” she said.

The Christian Action Network official said this is especially true in many African countries with poor health care systems. As for women having control over their own bodies, Hodgson said, “It’s not a question of whether she should have control over her body. She now has a child, not a choice. The issue of children’s rights, right from conception, needs to be addressed.”

South Africa legalized abortions in 1997. Hodgson says despite that there’s been an increase in illegal or back street abortions because the government has not cracked down on them. What’s more, she says, pills to induce abortion are now readily available on many street corners in South Africa.

She said abortion should be banned under all circumstances, adding that cases in which the mother’s life is in danger are rare. In that case, however, she said the doctor should try to save both lives and not choose who will live.

The Elliott Institute mentioned by Hodgson is in Springfield, Illinois. It says its strategy is to end abortion with compassion. And that the welfare of a mother and her unborn child are inseparable.

You May Like

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid